Washington DUI Checkpoints

DUI problem in Washington State: Are DUI Checkpoints and roadblocks the answer?

Early this week it was noted that a legislative group is recommending DUI sobriety checkpoints or better known as DUI roadblocks. It appears that the debate about DUI roadblocks is once again going to be in the forefront. However, currently Washington State is one of the few states that consider DUI roadblocks and checkpoints unconstitutional.
In Seattle v. Mesiani, 110 Wn.2d 454 (Wash. 1988) – The found that the checkpoint program failed the balancing test of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court reversed the judgment of the appellate court which upheld the validity of sobriety checkpoints because the checkpoints violated both the United States Constitution and the Washington Constitution.


Thirty-eight states currently have some sort of DUI sobriety checkpoint program. The push for Washington State to implement this type of program has resurfaced due to the recent high profile DUI fatality accidents. I will make it very clear, I am 100% against these checkpoints and I believe it is just another way of eroding our constitutional rights to be free from unwarranted search and seizures.
The real question is, do DUI roadblocks work? The answer is yes and no. They work in the sense that certain people will be more intimidated and not drive after drinking. Although, they are probably already the people who don’t drink and drive.

Checkpoints don’t work because:

  1. It still doesn’t address the real issue of alcoholism
  2. Police will have a hard time finding drunk drivers, because they will not witness bad driving. Smelling like alcohol is not against the law.
  3. It takes several Policemen to man a roadblock; those police will not be out patrolling for bad drivers (the real danger).
  4. It takes a lot of time to set up and take down road blocks (lights, signs, etc.).Those police will not be patrolling.
  5. Drunk drivers will just avoid roadblocks or turn off before them. Obviously it has not be addressed yet, but I doubt it would be criminal to turn off before entering the checkpoint.

I know a little something about DUI checkpoints because I practiced in a jurisdiction that had them before coming back to Kirkland and practicing DUI law. I have spoken to police officers who have operated check points in the past and in my experience they have agreed they are not the cure. Police officers are better off patrolling high DUI areas than standing stagnate at a checkpoint.
The only thing checkpoints do is unnecessarily subject sober law abiding people to searches. Checkpoints are just hype. Please fight the urge to give up any more constitutional rights. None of us want people driving Under the Influence in Washington, but we also must protect our rights. Once you give up a right, it is very hard to get it back. Let’s focus the money and time towards education and solving addiction.
Please comment and let me know what you think about Washington State amending its constitution and allowing DUI road blocks and checkpoints.